There's a colloquial link between obesity and social disadvantage but a new U.K. and U.S. study is the strongest evidence yet that fat people have less chance at success -- especially for women.
The study using data from 500,000 people taking part in the ongoing UK Biobank project showed overweight women were at more of a disadvantage than overweight men when it came to education level and annual income.
The study delved deeper than skin-deep perceptions, Professor Timothy Frayling at the University of Exeter said the study tested whether the genes that influenced height or Body Mass Index directly pointed to socioeconomic status.
The results showed a group of 70 gene variants shown to determine a higher BMI lead to lower income and greater deprivation, especially in women.
For every one standard deviation higher BMI, the participant's annual household income was $AU401 lower for men and $AU3615 lower in women.
"The implications of this are that if you could take the same woman, the same intellect, the same CV the same background but send her through life a stone heavier, she would be £1500 [$AU2869] per year worse off," Frayling said.
"It's the strongest level of evidence that there is a causal effect -- that simply something about being a bit fatter as a woman or being a bit shorter as a man lowers your chances in life and that’s not something we knew with any concrete evidence before."
Genes pointing to a shorter height lead to lower levels of education, lower job status, and less income, particularly in men, with a 6.3 cm height difference resulting in 1.12 times higher odds of working in a skilled profession.
Frayling said the research raised more questions.
"Clearly things like, 'are women who are a bit more overweight being discriminated against in the workplace?' needs more investigation. Is it something about being depressed and having a lower self esteem? We know that depression levels are higher in women who are overweight.
"Are we as employers sitting in an interview room and subconsciously choosing a thinner woman over the fatter woman?
"If that’s the case it’s clearly bad for the woman and bad for society."